A former Young Trustee is running for Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Former federal criminal prosecutor Justin Fairfax, Trinity ’00, is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in the June 11 primary. If he wins that race and the election in November, Fairfax would be the first black Attorney General in Virginia’s history. Having grown up in a neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C. where gangs and violence were prevalent, Fairfax said he made a pledge to use his education to make the world a safer place for people and give them an equal opportunity to succeed.
“Duke provided me with an unusual opportunity for leadership and it also provided me with an opportunity to get a world-class education,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax said he wants to focus on further regulating the mortgage market in Virginia and protecting homeowners from scammers. If elected, Fairfax said his office will also push for legal protections for college students, including ensuring that they have access to what he refers to as “safe” student loans.
“A number of students have gone bankrupt in their 20s and 30s,” he said. “Loans with unfair terms from banks can rob students of an opportunity to gain an education.”
Fairfax was active in the Duke community as an undergraduate. He was a Reginaldo Howard Memorial scholar, served as co-president of the Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Fund and lobbied for the expansion of the scholarship, which led to a full tuition coverage by the University under the scholarship. He was active in the greek community as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and served as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
His connection to Duke extended beyond his four years at the University—he now sits on the Board of Visitors for the Sanford School of Public Policy. Fairfax also served as a member of the Board of Trustees, including a term as the Undergraduate Young Trustee from 2000-2003.
“He possesses an understanding of policy that would allow him to make a difference on the issues he believes in,” said Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science and past director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.
Jentleson worked closely with Fairfax through the Public Policy Majors Union and in planning the 2000 graduation ceremony for public policy majors, where Farifax served as the undergraduate student speaker.
Paul Brathwaite, Law ’96, met Fairfax while they were both working in D.C. and said he is not surprised Fairfax is running for political office.
“[Fairfax] has always been interested in public service and had been working in different areas of public service for a long time,” Brathwaite said. “It was a natural progression for him to seek an office that would allow him to help people.”
Fairfax encouraged students to serve their community for the benefit of others, advice he was given by former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder.
“Enter public service for the right reasons: not to make a lot of money but to make a difference” he said.
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